EDITORS NOTE: During Volunteer Week (April 12 – 18, 2015), Eastern Health is recognizing volunteers for their caring commitment and dedication. Their contributions truly enrich the lives of our many patients, clients, residents and staff.
The following story was written by Lesley Derraugh, a long-time volunteer at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, who details her accounts as a volunteer with Eastern Health and how this experience has shaped her life.
Here’s Lesley’s story:
It’s funny how decisions, which seem so small at the time, can completely alter your life.
I began volunteering with Eastern Health when I was 14 years old. It was an easy decision – I was too young to get a part-time job, school was fairly straightforward, and my parents were encouraging me to build my resume. So, I started taking on a few hours a week at the hospital. It seemed like the perfect way to fill some of my free time for a few months.
Over nine years later, I still spend my free time at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, but I am not the girl I was when I started. My experience at the hospital has changed my perspective and shaped me in ways that I never believed it would, and I believe that it has helped me to become the person I am today.
My experience at the hospital has shaped me in ways that I never believed it would, and I believe that it has helped me to become the person I am today.
As a teenager, I certainly did not consider the long-term ramifications of spending a few hours a week at the hospital, but looking back, I know that my life would not be the same without my time here.
Working at the hospital, we encounter people who are often at their most vulnerable state. They are in pain, suffering, and at times, sadly, they are dying; but they are also healing. It is the role of the volunteer to reach out and help in the healing process, not on the medical level, but on an emotional level, with companionship, patience and understanding.
It is the role of the volunteer to reach out and help in the healing process, not on the physical, scientific and medicinal level, but on an emotional level, with companionship, patience and understanding.
In my experience, volunteers are not always supporting those lying in a hospital bed. We also interact with grieving family members, concerned visitors and staff. As volunteers, we offer support to all who cross our path, reaching out with a kind word, or an offer of assistance. I have seen the difference these small acts can make, and the burden they can lift from the shoulders of their recipients.
About five years ago, I was working as a summer student with Volunteer Resources, when my fellow students and I were assigned the task of assisting with an afternoon concert. Two young volunteers arrived at the hospital with their instruments to give a musical performance for the patients.
At first, I questioned whether it would be a successful event, as the summer heat had people around the hospital listless and frustrated. I was quick to change my mind as a few patients and visiting family members headed down the halls.
It was a beautiful moment to see those individuals come together with our volunteers and staff in the lounge to listen to the music. As they moved through a varied collection of songs, the mood in the room was one of pure peace. For me, that moment epitomizes the experience of the volunteer, the idea of comfort in difficult moments, and connection between strangers.
I have learned so much from my time at St. Clare’s but the true value of my volunteer experience, I have discovered, lies not in resume building or in any sense of increased self-worth, but rather in the friends I have made and the people I have met.
The true value of my volunteer experience, I have discovered, lies not in resume building or in any sense of increased self-worth, but rather in the friends I have made and the people I have met.
I have had the opportunity to meet dozens of volunteers over this last decade, and have even trained some of them in the many tasks we undertake with our volunteer programs. I find that I am truly inspired by them, and I am honored to be a part of that family. They have shown me what it is that I want from my own life, the level of dedication and care that I want to bring to my work, and the passion that comes from engaging in pursuits that truly matter.
Working now, for the first time as a member of the hospital auxiliary executive, I am once again awed by the sheer commitment of the people who make up this group. They see the value of the auxiliary, its work, and the volunteers who provide crucial services to the hospital’s patients and staff each and every single day. More importantly, they understand the true sense of community that exists amongst our volunteers, and within the larger area where they serve on numerous other boards and organizations.
I am honoured to find myself amongst these women, and within the ranks of the many volunteers who are dedicated to serving St. Clare’s to the best of their ability.
At the start of our auxiliary meeting each month, we join our voices in prayer. While I do not consider myself to be a religious person, there is a certain comfort to be found in the words, and it serves as a mission statement of sorts, recommitting each member to the work we do, and reminding us of the service we owe to our patients. Many of these patients are living through some of the darkest moments of their lives and we offer them a little comfort, a little peace, a kind word, or a helping hand. ■
For more information on Volunteering with Eastern Health, please visit Volunteer Resources.
This story was written by Lesley Derraugh, a volunteer with Eastern Health.